Excel, Big Data, and Google Trends: What’s Going On?

Trends is a lesser-known Google tool that allows you to follow search interest of a particular topic.  Here’s an unscientific but interesting trend I noticed tonight.

As an analyst, I live in Microsoft Excel, and to a lesser extent, Access.  I also hear “big data” a lot.  To me, Excel is the Model T to the big data oil boom — a cheap, sturdy vehicle of capturing the power of big data.

Google Trends confirms what we all know — the search interest in “big data” has taken off.  What surprised me was that during this same time period, interest in Excel and Access has declined.  Search interest in Big Data has actually surpassed that of Access in the past year.


My assumption was the Microsoft Office has benefitted from the Big Data boom.  Now I’m not so sure.

Let’s look at a couple of trends for similar data-analysis tools.  I search for Google Sheets (a competitor to Excel) and Hadoop (a Big Data processing software).

While interested in Microsoft products have declined, searches for these two products have increased.


This says to me that Microsoft has a problem.  I agree with its new strategy to focus as a software and services-based company.  Their delve into hardware has failed (Xbox excepted).

But even in their “home base” of software, Microsoft is not the titan it once was.  It is not the player in Big Data — it is becoming one in a palette of different programs.  Historically, Microsoft has not “played well” with other software vendors.  It seems that it has softened this position.  Connecting with other software programs has become much easier in the new Office.

This is highly unscientific and I should know better.  But these graphs were too interesting to keep to myself.

What do you think — does Microsoft have a problem staying relevant in the Big Data world, and is it doing enough to address it?

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  1. 1. Label your axes, or at least the Y-axis. Is it a number of times a term is used, or a percentage of all terms (I’ve seen both).

    2. “Big Data” is kind of meaningless.

    3. Over the last two years of the data, Excel looks roughly steady. I’m not surprised that Access is down, because it doesn’t seem like Microsoft pushes it much. It would be interesting to update with the two years since this was published.

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